January 15, 2007


Brady takes charge for Patriots


Associated Press/Jack Smith
New England Patriots wide receiver Reche Caldwell hauls in a 49-yard catch as San Diego Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer defends to set up the winning field goal in their AFC playoff game in San Diego, Sunday. The Pats won 24-21.

AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO — Tom Brady, as cool as ever, delivered every time the San Diego Chargers gave him another chance.
Already a three-time Super Bowl winner, his shot at a fourth is very much alive after the New England Patriots shocked league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers on Sunday, winning 24-21 to advance to the AFC championship game.
Brady overcame three interceptions, his career playoff high, to lead the Patriots to 11 points in 3:26 late in the game. He and coach Bill Belichick now have a 12-1 postseason record together, and need to win at Indianapolis next Sunday to make their fourth Super Bowl trip in six seasons.
Brady and linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who also helped the Patriots in their Super Bowl runs earlier this decade, walked off the field together.
“I said to Tedy, ‘Man, that was not easy.’ He says to me, ‘They never are buddy, they never are,”’ said Brady, 27-of-51 for 280 yards.
As tough a win as it was for New England, it was a gut-wrenching loss for San Diego and its coach, Marty Schottenheimer, whose job could be in jeopardy after his career postseason record tumbled to 5-13.
Tomlinson shattered several league records in helping the Chargers go an NFL-best 14-2, including 8-0 at home in the regular season.
Once it was over, Tomlinson, like Brady one of the most laid-back superstars in any sport, lost his cool. He went after an unidentified Patriots player and had to be restrained by a teammate and former Charger Reche Caldwell, who had a huge game for the Patriots.
Tomlinson yelled and pointed at the Patriots player, upset that some Patriots were dancing on the Chargers logo at midfield after they had silenced the record crowd of 68,810 at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I would never react in that way. I was very upset,” Tomlinson said. “When you go to the middle of our field and start doing the dance Shawne Merriman is known for, that is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach.”
Merriman, nicknamed “Lights Out,” did a spasmodic dance to celebrate each of his NFL-high 17 sacks.
“We lost to a better team today,” Tomlinson said. “Hopefully the next opportunity we have we’ll learn something from this.”
Tomlinson ran for 123 yards and two scores, and caught two passes for 64 yards.
While the Chargers respected the mystique Brady and the Patriots had built with Super Bowl wins following the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons, they hoped to be the ones raising the Lombardi Trophy in Miami on Feb. 4.
San Diego had nine players voted to the Pro Bowl team and five to the All-Pro team. And it had been supercharged by Tomlinson, who became the most prolific scorer in one season in NFL history with 31 touchdowns and 186 points while winning the rushing title with 1,815 yards.
But Brady is the one who’s been there before in January. And nearly always has won — it was Brady’s sixth career game-winning drive in the playoffs, and his 24th overall.
The winning points came on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:10 left. That capped a 72-yard drive highlighted by a 49-yard pass to Reche Caldwell, who left the Chargers as a free agent after last season.
With the Patriots trailing 21-13, Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to the wide-open Caldwell with 4:36 to play. The Patriots tied it on a tricky 2-point conversion, snapping the ball directly to running back Kevin Faulk, who was standing next to Brady and ran through the middle of the line.
San Diego’s Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding was short on a 54-yard field goal try with 3 seconds left.
Schottenheimer will no doubt be criticized for going for it on fourth-and-11 from the New England 30 in the first quarter rather than having Kaeding try a field goal.
Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ first-year starting quarterback, was sacked by Mike Vrabel and fumbled, giving the Patriots the ball at their 35.
Although Schottenheimer has a year left on his contract, at more than $3 million, he and general manager A.J. Smith have had an icy relationship for months, and the front-office felt this team was built for a Super Bowl run.
The Chargers had four turnovers — they had only 15 in the regular season — and made other critical mistakes.
“Anytime you’re in the playoffs and lose, and certainly I have plenty of experience at it, there’s a disappointment,” Schottenheimer said.
Punt returner Eric Parker had a double muff to give the Patriots the ball on their 31 late in the third quarter. Following a third-and-13 on which Brady fumbled and Matt Light recovered, Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence head-butted tight end Daniel Graham and drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That led to Gostkowski’s 24-yard field that pulled the Patriots to 14-13.
Tomlinson scored on a 3-yard run with 8:35 left in the game for a 21-13 lead.
On the next Patriots drive, Brady was intercepted by safety Marlon McCree, who, rather than going down, tried for a return and was hit by Troy Brown and fumbled, with Caldwell recovering.
The Chargers challenged, but the play was upheld, and the Patriots had the ball at the Chargers 32. Five plays later, Brady hit Caldwell and Faulk added the conversion.
“There was a lot of gratification,” Caldwell said. “I had a chance to come home and show what I could do and I think I made plays.”
Tomlinson scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead. Later, he turned a screen pass into a brilliant 58-yard gain, leaving two defenders grasping at air while he scooted to the New England 6. His backup, Michael Turner, scored on the next play for a 14-3 lead.
Brady kept the Patriots in it by running the two-minute offense to perfection, pulling New England to 14-10 just before halftime. At the end of the 10-play, 72-yard drive, Brady had all day to throw a 6-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney in the back of the end zone.
Notes: San Diego lost its fourth straight postseason game dating to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season ... The kicker rookie Gostkowski replaced, Adam Vinatieri, kicked five field goals for all of Indianapolis’ points in a 15-6 win at Baltimore on Saturday.



Tourney title captured by avengeful Purple Tigers

ONEIDA — A bit of basketball revenge also earned Cortland High boys the title at the Oneida Tournament held over the weekend.
The Purple Tigers would get 21 points from senior guard Joel White and 20 points from senior center Tom Wilk in a 58-51 victory over nemesis East Syracuse-Minoa in Sunday’s title game showdown.
The 6-foot-8 Wilk, who also got his hand on 13 rebounds while playing a key defensive role in holding ES-M big man Greg Lothridge to 10 points, would be named the tournament most valuable player. He scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds when the Purple Tigers opened the tournament topping Central Square 50-47 on Saturday.
It was the first win in three match-ups with ES-M this season, the two schools OHSL Freedom Division cohorts. The Spartans had pulled out a 49-48 victory at Cortland back in December, and was fresh off a 74-64 triumph over the Purple Tigers this past Wednesday.
CHS (10-5) got this third chance when ES-M (10-4) defeated host Oneida 64-56 in the opening round on Saturday. Oneida went on to claim third place, beating Central Square in Sunday’s consolation contest.
Cortland 58, ES-Minoa 51: To reverse this losing habit against the Spartans, CHS coach Mick Lowie knew some changes were in order.
The Purple Tigers mentor first decided to have Wilk front Lothridge whenever possible, with plenty of backside help coming from teammates in Cortland’s zone scheme. That helped limit Lothridge to just four baskets.
Slowing things down, letting White decide when to trigger a fast break and when to get Cortland into its offensive sets, also figured in the game plan.
“We knew if we got into a 70-point game again we were not going to win,” said Lowie. “We kept the tempo of the game down and executed very well.”
Though White and Wilk combined for 41 of Cortland’s 58 points, this was a solid team effort.
Jack Wood provided a huge boost with eight points and five rebounds off the bench, while Derek Allen passed out five assists and hit a big second half 3-point shot. Kaywon Pitman, Levi Walrath and Wood all helped scramble defensively to keep ES-M down.
The Spartans had used fourth quarter spurts to do in CHS in the previous meetings. This time around, a 19-point fourth quarter that including making 9-of-11 fourth quarter free throws. White and Wilk each made late free throws to help tuck the victory away in the final minute.
CHS, which led 27-22 at halftime, did lost the lead briefly in the fourth quarter before coming back.
Wilk had 13 points in the second half, eight coming in the fourth quarter. White, who would earn a spot on the all-tournament team, also had nine rebounds.
Tom Sullivan had 17 points and Sean Halligan 14 for ES-M.
Cortland 50, Central Square 47: Cortland overcame 23 turnovers to beat Class AA Central Square in the opening round.
A Central Square team missing point guard and sparkplug Matt Marra due to an injury, and having no one over 6-foot-2 on the floor, had trouble holding Wilk in check during his 26-point performance.
Wilk scored 14 of Cortland’s 17 points in the fourth quarter, when the Purple Tigers hung tough. This game was tied at 47-47 with 39 seconds left when White made two go-ahead free throws. Wilk added a late free throw for the final margin of victory, a late Central Square heave off target.
White finished with 14 points, eight assists and four steals. And CHS did a good job holding down Central Square’s dangerous 3-point shooters in a zone defense.
“We felt we could keep track of their kids better in our zone,” said Lowie, as top Central Square shooters Kyle Miller and Kyle LaPoint each had a lone second half trey when the Purple Tigers battled back from a 21-18 halftime hole.
Miller finished with 14 points, while LaPointe tossed in 11.
A key to keeping close in the first half came when Central Square received a technical foul with a five-point lead. White made four straight free throws, CHS scored on the ensuring possession, and the Purple Tigers suddenly had a lead. A second half ‘T’ against Central Square also helped CHS in the second half.
Coach Lowie felt the two close victories, both featuring solid fourth quarters, is a good sign heading down the regular season stretch. The Purple Tigers visit league leader Jamesville-DeWitt on Wednesday.
CORTLAND JVs suffered a pair of setbacks in the tournament.
Central Square defeated the Purple Tigers 64-44 in the opening game. Justin Guerin and Kevin Shaw were the leading Purple Tiger scorers with nine points apiece.
ES-Minoa won the third place consolation contest 72-67 on Sunday, as Andrew Raymond poured in 27 points. Shaw had 22 points, Trevor Williams 19, and Guerin 11 for CHS.



CHS fourth, Homer third on tourney mats

It was a very busy weekend for the local wrestling teams as all five were in action.
Cortland High took fourth-place in the Central Square Duals after posting a 6-3 record over two days, Friday and Saturday. Marathon also competed at Central Square, placing eighth with a 2-7 mark.
Elsewhere, Homer Central and Groton traveled to the Cazenovia Invitational. With two champions and a total of four wrestlers in the championship finals, the Trojans took third place with 126.5 points while Groton placed 12th with 33 points.
Dryden High headed to Watkins Glen for the Mike Watson Memorial Tournament and had one champion crowned in three championship bouts as the Purple Lions placed ninth with 101 points.
CORTLAND HIGH went 3-2 Saturday with wins over Clifton-Fine (60-11), Marathon (50-19) and Camden (55-15) while losing to Watertown (41-22) and Central Square (40-24).
Individually, Coty Cute was a perfect 5-0 Saturday in matches at 171 and 189. Cute earned team Most Outstanding Wrestler honors by going a perfect 9-0 and now has an overall record of 26-4 this season. Dan Foster (160) was 5-0 Saturday and finished the two days with an 8-1 mark to improve to 31-2 on the season. Josh Morehouse (171-189) was also 5-0 Saturday and 8-1 over Friday and Saturday.
Garret Morse, Mike Gates and Eric Reisweber each went 7-2 for the weekend. Morse (103) was 4-1 Saturday, as were Gates and Reisweber.
MARATHON wrestled without Devon Brown (119) and Eric McCracken (171), who are both recovering from injuries. Those two key wrestlers would have been crucial in a couple of the close matched the Olympians lost.
Kasey Bush posted a stellar 8-1 record at 135 pounds and was the team MOW at Central Square.
Dustin Majean continues to improve and posted a 7-2 record at 215 while teammates Mikhail Brown (125-130) and Sot Torbit (140-145) were each 6-3.
“We wrestled ok this weekend,” said Marathon coach Jamie Bush. “We have a couple out do to injury that could have helped, but we gave it our all this weekend. Devon Brown and Adam McCracken would have gave as a better chance to win the close matches, but you can not rush the kids back to early. We hope to see them both back soon.
“Kasey Bush was voted team MOW after going 8-1 and beating Section 3 Champion Winky Shepard 5-3,” Bush added. “Kasey had a good game plan and kept his head through out the match. It was a nice win for him and he can build on it as he saw some good kids this weekend and knows he has to improve each day as sectionals are coming soon.”
HOMER ENJOYED a successfull weekend as Zak Quierello and Mike DiOrio each posted 3-0 records en route to championships. Quierello scored a 17-0 technical fall over Kris Shirley in the 119-pound championship bout while DiOrio pinned Trevor Nunes of Sandy Creek at the 1:38 mark of their title bout at 275.
“We did have a good weekend,” said Homer coach Jeff Lewis. “Zak wrestled very well and had a good tournament. Mike also wrestled very smartly and won another championship.”
Logan Williams (160) and Elijah Vaber (189) also reached the finals, but had to settle for second-place honors with 2-1 records.
Nate Crawford battled through the wrestlebacks to finish in fourth place.
Groton did not have any wrestlers place in the top four.
DRYDEN HIGH saw its big three all reach the championship finals, but only Tony Clarke could claim a title. Clarke (23-1) posted a 6-0 decision over Garrett VanGorden in the championship final at 215 pounds.
“Tony dominated the 215-pound weight class with pins over Justin Grant (Elmira Heights), Brandon Persha (Watkins Glen) and Bryant Homerda (Elmira Notre Dame) to reach the finals,” said Drydne coach Larry Hinkle. “Tony is in great shape, healthy, and ready to go on Wednesday where he will face a tough and familiar foe from Tioga, Justin Rogers.” 
Anthony Jerome (130) and Rex Hollenbeck (160) both lost decisions to Waverly wrestlers in the finals. Jerome (21-4) fell 4-1 to Jesse Carling while Hollenbeck (19-5) dropped a 6-2 decision to Chris Nochi.
Bryan Pyle (15-11) finished in fifth place at 171 after a long day in the wrestlebacks.